Sydney Opera House at Dusk
If you are planning a trip Down Under with some time in Sydney, you need to build your plans around their great public transportation. Like most large cities, buses are plentiful but Sydney also boasts a rapid transit rail system called “Light Rail” that connects most major parts of the metropolitan area. The cars are modern, clean and comfortable.
We stayed near China Town and there was a surface street stop just a block from our hotel. From there we could get to Darling Harbour, Bondi Junction and Circular Quay all in about a half hour. In addition, the massive Sydney harbor is crisscrossed with dozens of ferries which all seem to converge on Circular Quay next to the famous Sydney Opera House. Even if you don’t have a destination, taking a ferry is a great way to see the sights around the harbor. Ferries from the Quay take you out to Watson’s Bay (be sure and have fish ‘n chips at Doyle’s on the Beach), Manley Beach (a popular ocean front beach town noted for good surfing) and across to Luna Park, a classic amusement park.
If all this wasn’t enough, there is also a fare system based on a transit card called the Opal Card. You buy the card with your choice of an amount loaded (you can also reload) and than tap on and tap off on all of the above systems as well as the regional rail lines. But here’s the best part. As you use the card there is a maximum daily fare of A$15 (A$7.50 for children) with Sundays capped at A$2.50. We took a train to the Blue Mountains (over an hour and a half from Sydney), spent the day and returned, then went to Darling Harbour for dinner and back to the hotel all for A$2.50 each. There is also a weekly cap of A$60 with the card as well and, after eight paid journeys with Opal, you can travel for the rest of the week for half-price fare. Always be sure to tap on as staff wanders through the cars from time to time checking.
Sydney is a very walkable city. The focus of the downtown area (CBD) is the Circular Quay and The Rocks. Facing the water at the Quay, the Opera House is to your right with a number of restaurants and shops nearby and the ferries straight ahead . Off to the left is The Rocks, the location of the original English settlement at the harbor with a number of shops, restaurants, galleries and museums. Some of the museums offer free or reduced entry admissions so be sure to check this out if you plan to visit.
A short walk From The Rocks is the approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is worth the climb up to its walkway for the view. If you are really adventurous and aren’t afraid of heights you can book a climbing tour up the support cables to the top. A dozen blocks west and south is the Kings Street Wharf and Darling Harbour area with a great waterside walk lined with restaurants and tourist attractions including a wildlife center extension of the Sydney zoo and the aquarium.
Photos top to bottom: Opal card, Watson’s Bay, Bondi Beach, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains.